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World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft – Part 28 – Warlords of Draenor, Kind of Already Boring…

I have a bit of a sad fact to throw out there… I’m a little tired of WoW.  The hype over Warlords has kind of worn off and what’s left is kind of a little dry.  Sure there are new Raids rolling out and all but I’m kind of satisfied with running them through once for the story and being done.  I ran Siege of Orgrimmar so damn much on that stupid Cloak quest line and I’m just so tired of that mess.  Not to mention that after doing a bit of ACTUAL raiding with a guild group, I’m no longer satisfied with LFR.  No mechanics, 25 people just pounding away at everything, no organization, blah blah blah, it’s kind of crap.

Then there is the Garrison.  I barely bother checking in anymore, the return feels very low, the main purpose is crafting gear and you can only wear three pieces of crafted gear at all, which is kind of lame itself.  There isn’t a huge market on the AH for anything that the Garrison produces considering, everyone has a garrison and can just farm out their own crap.

I’ve done most of the mainline quests and a large majority of the secondary quests in WoD.  I just don’t feel like there is a need to go out in the world and explore because I’ve seen it all for the most part.

I’ve even tried running alts and levelling alts.  I had two level 90s when WoD dropped and the Boost to use, so technically, three level 90 characters.  I’ve only gotten one to level 100, and levelling in WoD is ridiculously easy.  I just have not had the desire to bother.  It feels like a chore.

I can’t quite put my finger on what’s off about this expansion, it just feels like it’s become, too casual, even for a casual player like myself.  Leading up to WoD I had been building a little network of alts and professions to be able to be totally self sufficient on everything I need, all of that seems kind of pointless now since it feels like the Garrison provides everything for you pretty easily.  I barely even need my Banker Alt anymore to store materials with the new stacks and such.  This should all really be a good thing, except it does make things feel a little too simple.

It doesn’t help that I really don’t care much for the overall plot of WoD.  Sure, the random zone based subplots have kind of always been a thing, but the overall plot here just feels pointless.  The whole point was Garrosh trying to build some sort of army of Iron Horde or something, except we pretty much wiped them out from entering Azeroth in the opening quest line.  Spoilers, Garrosh gets unceremoniously wiped out in a quest and now we’re left with a bunch of nobody villains that we sort of have to deal with for “reasons”.

Yeah, I said nobodies.  Grommash, Gul’Dan, etc, aren’t nobodies lore wise, except these jokers are not *our* history, they are some alternate history, they are nobodies as far as *our* history.  We could manabomb the entire planet of Draenor and it would have no bearing on the real Azeroth’s past, present, or future.  I guess I understand why Thrall doesn’t seem to be real excited about paling around with his parents.  They aren’t his parents, they are random Orcs that share the names of his parents.  If Durotan dies it has no impact on anything.  Thrall still exists and lives to form the Horde and kill Deathwing blah blah blah.

Sure, Pandaria was kind of random, but the end result of Garrosh was something that had been a slow burn over a long period.  Garrosh was hanging around in old Nagarand, he was leading forces in Northrend against the Lich King, he was thrust prematurely into a leadership roll in Cataclysm, and the power went to his head and nearly killed everyone in Pandaria.  Garrosh has been around in WoW for a while in important roles.

These Warlords of Draenor are nobodies, and I’m having some issue with figuring out why I should really care about them or saving their world.

World of Warcraft – Part 27 – Garrosh Hellscream… again…

I suppose I should be up front here, there are some spoilers for the Nagrand quest line.

It’s a moment that was sure to come in Warlords, the return of Garrosh Hellscream.  The Orc who started all this mess with his Time Traveling craziness.  I have to admin, I’m actually a little disappointed.  I was kind of hoping he’s be a Raid boss, or at least a dungeon boss.  Granted the in game single player scenario events are kind of like dungeons, it just felt like Garrosh would get more.  I think I’m less disappointed in his death as I am in how he was handled in the entire expansion.  There has been little mention of him or his involvement.  Granted, I have not read through every single bit of quest text, who does, but I would have expected him to show up here and there at least a few times.  Hell I don’t even think he showed up at all during the initial run around the Dark Portal even.  Other than the preview video where Garrosh stops Grom from drinking the Blood, he’s almost a non entity in this expansion.

This kind of leads to ,my sentiments about the expansion and it’s meandering into random incoherent-ness.  Much like MoP.  At this point, it’s really hard to see where things are going.  Garrosh was defeated in Orgrimmar, then escaped custody after his trial.  Then we, the heroes, are called to battle the mysterious Dark Iron Horde emerging from the portal.  Eventually we all travel through the portal with Khadgar and Thrall and crew to close the portal from other other side, which was surprisingly as simple as interrupting Gul’Dan and later blasting the thing to pieces with one of the Iron Horde’s canons.

At the end of the Nagarand Quest chain, Garrosh is killed by Thrall.  That douche Varian isn’t around to get in the way of the deed this time.  So what are we still hanging around for?  I suppose the Iron Horde could be building a new Dark Portal, can they even get back to our Azeroth without the help of Garrosh to guide them?  I suppose there are others involved, Wrathion is probably hanging around somewhere.  I imagine Garrosh has some Golbin engineers somewhere.  I guess there are reasons to stay now that Garrosh has fallen, his fall still feels kind of anti climactic.

It kind of feels odd that Garrosh is effectively a huge push over this round, you and Durotan go a few rounds with Garrosh before hand, he’s tough, but not hard, and he’s surrounded by cheering Iron Hordies.  Even if you managed to get the upper hand, they would surely descend on you, the player, and tear you apart.  It’s kind of important to keep in mind that Garrosh is no longer infused with Sha energies, this he’s not nearly as strong as he was in Mists.

The final battle cut scene is pretty impressive, the scenario invasion of Gromgar considerably less so.  It feels a bit buggy and a little too confused.  Enemies would randomly pull out of nowhere for one.  Later you’re supposed to make your way along a rise through the battle and it’s easy to get long.  Lost enough that you can walk up and prematurely enter Garrosh’s circle of enemies.  Not much happens without the story trigger but it feels a bit sloppy.

It’s par for the course on the story for WoD I suppose.  Maybe things will start to come together more once we get to Tanaan Jungle.  I certainly hope so anyway.

World of Warcraft – Part 26 – GrimRail Depot

During the original reveal of Warlords of Draenor, there was a short clip of a dungeon that takes place on a moving train.  A lot of people were pretty stoked for it, myself included.  It’s something that’s pretty unique compared to a lot of dungeons.  Most Dungeons consist of running through a castle or a cave of some sort killing monsters and bosses.  They are often divided into various wings or phases.  Grimrail Depot really isn’t much different than this set up, except you get the intensity of ridding on a moving train for much of the trip.

The actual experience lives up to the thrill.

You initially start out in the train station itself, surrounded by crates of supplies and weapons for the Iron Horde.  There are a handful of trash packs in this area consisting of some Orcs and Goblins.  The Goblins occasionally toss out some small scale Iron Stars which can be tricky.  I also wonder if these small sized Iron Stars are a hint at what’s to come once we get access to the Iron Horde Stronghold in Tanaan Jungle.  The Iron Star showed up in Mists during the final battle with Garrosh.  It was the ultimate destructive weapon of the Iron Horde, they were huge and would wipe out the group easily if not properly handled.  They have been much more prevalent in their return in Warlords.  During the Iron Docks dungeon, there are some that the players release to wipe out packs of enemies.  They show up here in small form.  There was even a pet version that showed up during the lead up quests for WoD.  This shipment of small Iron Stars are certainly a sign of the direction the Iron Horde is taking it’s armies and tech.

After the initial run you face off against a large brute and his Goblin handler, Borka and Rocketspark.  Neither is particularly tough, the brute charges and stomps about while the Goblin shoots some rockets and flies around.  After finishing off this Boss the real fun starts.  You climb up some stairs and then leap onto the supply train as it heads out of the depot.

What follows is some trash packs as you travel through a few train cars.  What’s interesting is how cramped the space is.  It’s not a wide open dungeon, it’s a narrow set of train cars loaded with crates.  This makes it tricky to avoid attacks and monsters and tricky to keep line of sight for attacking.  I kind of wish you could climb the box walls since some of them are certainly low enough to jump on.  Especially with my Hunter, it would be cool to leap up above the enemy to shower them with arrows while the Tank is fending them off.

Halfway through, you meet up with the second dungeon Boss, Nitrogg.  This battle adds some extra mechanics since Nitrogg mans a gun emplacement at the end of his train car.  At the start of the battle, the car opens up on each side revealing the world speeding past.  In order to break Nitrogg out of the gun emplacement, players must pick up Mortar shells off the Adds that spawn and shoot them back towards Nitrogg using canons on the sides of the train car.  What complicates this is the constant barrage of fire from Nitrogg himself and the Wind that pushes the players towards the edge when they are standing outside the train car near the gun emplacements.  Knocking out the gun turns Nitrogg into a pretty standard Tank and Spank fight.

The final two cars take place outside, though still within the confines of the train itself so there isn’t any pesky wind to deal with.  There is an interesting little action sequence following Nitrogg where you have to choose which side to run across to avoid a tipping vat of motlen metal.  Following this is a car full of Trash.  The final boss arrives after this mob is killed in the form of Skylord Tovra.  Tovra is an Orc accompanies by a flying Rylack.  Tovra is pretty standard but the Rylack flies by regularly to drop AOE electricity on the train car forcing players to keep on their toes.

The whole thing is a lot of fun.  The speeding train works really well, you pass between cars and get hints of the speed early on and later during the open air fights you really get a sense of urgency.  It’s almost tragic that like most video game trains it tends to be an endless rail line through indiscriminate country.  In the time it takes you to finish the dungeon the train would likely circle all of Draenor a dozen times.  That’s just a side effect of being a video game I suppose.  Maybe a countdown timer to complete the dungeon work be better but it would probably be less fun as a result.

World of Warcraft – Part 25 – Level 100 and WoD So Far…

It hasn’t even been a month and I’ve already made it to level 100 on my Hunter, RamenJunkie.  I’m certainly nowhere near the first, it just feels like it was a pretty quick trip compared to going to 90.  i imagine this was intentional in Blizzard’s part actually.  Most of the “real game” happens at Max Level anyway.  I’m somewhere around 92 or 93 on Ramchan, still in the initial Garrison area.  I think part of why this felt so much faster than in MOP is that unlike MOP I wasn’t starting at level 1, fresh and new to the entire game.  I didn’t feel the need to get distracted for hours earning the Explorer achievement.  I didn’t spend forever doing low level Undead quests so I could get a ghostly undead horse.  I wasn’t playing catch up on 8 years of content.  I started out Warlords of Draenor on the same page as everyone else who has been around a while, Level 90, a stable of mounts and achievements, professions at decent levels, etc.

Ironically I made it to level 100 on the character I didn’t do all those other distractions with.  When I first started the game with the “free to level 20” starter edition, my first character was RamenJunkie, Orc Hunter.  I got bored playing Hunter pretty quickly and later started playing Ramchan, Blood Elf Warrior.  Warrior is a lot of fun to play but it does get tedious over time.  With Warrior, you’re always on the front line standing in the poop and taking damage.  Hunter is way more relaxed and simple, especially after the WoD skill pruning.  People make fun of Hunters, calling them Huntards and lazy and whatnot, and I am still among those folks.  I fully admit that there have been times in dungeons where I was simply standing in the back doing nothing but auto fire and letting my Pet do the work.  I also admit to accidentally pulling mobs, though i blame that on my habit of tabbing through targets as they die.  With Warrior if I accidentally target a distant enemy it’s no big deal because I can’t aggro anything not in Melee range.  Hunters can pull from across the room with a few accidental arrows.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying Warlords.  Blizzard did a ton of streamlining and it shows and really helps.  Everything old is new again as they say.  Just one example, almost all professions can be leveled entirely with WoD mats.  The ability pruning helps make all classes more intuitive.  Then there is the Garrisons, your own little base.  It’s like the old MoP Farm, only a zillion times better.  You have a hearth that takes you back anytime, you can earn TONS of useful materials and items instead of barely any garbage materials.

The Garrison is essentially the central hub for your entire Warlords experience.  Unlike the farm, which was this time consuming time sink that you picked up halfway in and felt obligated to return to daily for a while.

There are downsides to this.  To make the Garrison effective you need to recruit followers and upgrade buildings.  This means doing the questing in a lot of cases.  As much as I am enjoying WoD, I am not looking forward to doing it all again a second or third time with alts.

Warlords itself is decent plot wise, but it’s also not without it’s faults.  I’m really starting to feel reminded of Pandaria’s quests and zones.  The initial entry into the brave new world is intense and well scripted.  For the first zone everything feels solid and well tied together, this extends a bit into the second zone (Gorgrond/Valley of the Four Winds).  Afterwards it starts to feel a bit disjointed and unrelated in each zone.  This gets worse once reaching Max Level and you start running Dungeons out of context.  Why did I go fight a bunch of bird men in a sky castle?  I’m sure it will make more sense once I actually do the Spires of Arak quest lines but it doesn’t help break up the coherent flow that I was getting in the early zones.  I’ve also been pretty meticulous about running through each zone, I wanted to experience the entire package before moving on.  I have essentially 100% completed Frostfire Ridge, Gorgrond, and Talador.  I’m working my way through Nagrand.  Spires essentially comes before Nagrand but I had already leveled out of Spires by the time I got there, plus I needed the skinning from Nagrand to keep my Skinning skill going.

I still have my Level 90 Boost from buying Warlords as well.  I’m so torn on where to use it.  I’ve narrowed it down to either an Alliance character or a PVP Realm character.  I really could use an Alliance character, it would break up some of the repetition on Alt leveling and getting to max level in a PVP Realm is tedious but I want to get into that whole angle.  Anyway, that’s what’s up for this week.

World of Warcraft – Part 24 – Making Professions Better

So, the latest expansion to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor has been met with a lot of positive buzz, and it certainly seems to deserve it.  It does a lot of ambitious new things like the Garrisons, new play styles of Quest Hubs, a generally more cinematic experience, etc.  It also does a good job of simplifying the experience, a lot of this has to do with the level 90 boost and incentivizing people to “get back into the game”.

Personally, probably the best aspect is the professions.

I really enjoy leveling professions, I’m not super sure why honestly since there tends to be little actual benefit to any of my characters, but I still do it and enjoy it.  The problem is, leveling professions tends to rub against the whole idea of quickly leveling alts or even enjoying the flow of the plot.  I’ve been stick on my Hunter with both Skinning and Leveling stuck around 100 for ages.  I have a couple of options, I can wander around farming materials, and farming skinning low level monsters, or I can go and quest and do new content.  New content generally wins.  I can skip the farming and buy off the AH but the cost of materials on the AH tends to be ridiculous and often they aren’t even available.  Sure, needing some special elemental thingy that you would have been farming off some monster during a nightly Raid or Dungeon back when Burning Crusade was new worked great when doing those raids was a thing, it’s a little inconvenient these days when you’re probably going to have to solo things because no one is running that old content.

Not to mention that after all this investment in time or gold, you probably will just end up with a pile of Gloves or Shoulders no one wants that you’re going to vendor off for 2-3 gold total.  Just so you can go up maybe 10 skill points.  It feels like a complete waste of everything.  Even at high levels it can feel useless.  My Warrior is a Tailor, which is (was they removed the procs) good for the bonus stats I can add to my cape, but my Warrior uses Plate Gear, so all the Cloth armor I craft is useless to me.  Sure, I can try to sell it for a couple thousand gold on the Auction House, but the buyers for anything but the top gear are few and it tends to take weeks of cool down time to even craft one piece of gear.

It’s slow and tedious and boring.  Warlords does wonders to help this while not completely eliminating the process.  The biggest thing is the addition of several catch up mechanisms.  Like for Leather Working, There are War Drums which drop from some mobs and there are recipes for gear I can make right off the bat that give 5-10 skill points.  Some of the gear is actually useful in it’s comparable level too, which also helps incentivize actually crafting it.  If it’s not gear, it’s crafting material that can still be used later once the profession skill reaches a sufficient level to craft new gear.

It’s not just the crafting professions either.  Despite my low Skinning level, i can skin anything in Draenor.  I’m already in the 450 range.  I don’t have to head back to some low level mobs area and make a special effort to farm out the specific monsters I need to skin at my profession level, I can just do my normal questing and skin as I go, as it should be.

A lot of the secondary mats are also available from your garrison.  You don’t have to go find or buy that handful of cloth or herbs you need for that one recipe, you can generate a small amount of materials from other professions via your garrison.  You can mine ores and gather herbs from the mine and herb garden even if you don’t have those professions.  It’s fantastic and really has helped make professions feel doable and useful again.

I want to close off here with one last note on the best remaining improvement I can see.  As you level a profession, you reach “milestone” points.  I’m not sure the exact levels when these occur but you previously had to learn a new level from a trainer to level up farther.  It would be great if dropping a profession for a different one would let you keep any skill up to the highest skill level you’ve learned.  I understand not letting you perform that profession while it’s not “active” and I can appreciate having to relearn some things, but dropping a profession and having it revert to zero seems really lame.  Like suddenly my Warrior would completely forget how to sew if she went Engineering or Blacksmithing.